2020 Knowledge Brokers

Uvan Tseng

Senior Vice President
Callan
San Francisco, California

Uvan Tseng’s background in asset management has served him well as an investment consultant. Early on, he worked for Franklin Templeton, Fan Asset Management, and Armory Advisors, a hedge fund. Aside from investment expertise, he believes empathy is part of the equation. “You talk to people about their lives and develop trust,” he said. “In moments of crisis, you see how important that trust is.” And he has seen that play out during the tech bubble, the Global Financial Crisis, and again earlier this year during the pandemic-induced sell off.

While at Fan, a diverse and emerging asset management firm, he worked closely with Callan, one of the only consultants with a dedicated DWDO program at the time. In 2008, Tseng decided to join Callan. He now is a senior vice president in Callan’s fund sponsor consulting group, working with pension plans, defined contribution plans, and endowments and foundations. There are differences between his previous work and what he does now: “Asset management is bottom up, while consulting is more top down,” he said.

With his background and his superb credentials—he’s earned the right to use the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and has an MBA from Santa Clara University—Tseng is adept at helping clients through tough times like these. “We remind them” he said, “that we have a long-term plan in place and drawdowns are part of the equation.”

CIO: What actionable thing have you learned over the course of your career that has proven itself this year?

Tseng: Don’t panic and rebalance back to policy (if you are able to). It can be hard to stomach given that sometimes right after you rebalance you have to do the same rebalancing again—such as in March/April when you may have rebalanced into equities and then they continued to sell off—but it paid off this year. Also, avoid being too tactical since that is hard to get consistently right, and remember that long-term strategy actually means “long term.” Lastly, don’t fight the Fed.

CIO: What investments (specific securities or sectors) look good to you now? And why?

Tseng: It really depends on your time horizon. But if you are truly a long-term investor, certain sectors of real estate may present a good opportunity soon given that we haven’t seen any write-downs yet. Emerging markets may also be at an attractive entry point (non-US equity in general has lagged US equity since the Global Financial Crisis).

Value has been left in the dust by growth the last few years and likely won’t be roaring back any time soon seeing that interest rates are near zero (and will be for the foreseeable future), and dividend-paying companies are cutting dividends. But for very long-term investors, there likely is an opportunity. It’s a similar story with small-cap lagging large-cap US equity. Credit may become attractive again soon.

CIO: What ones don’t? And why?

Tseng: Growth equity valuations seem so stretched that I would tend to shy away from putting any new money there; however, with investors reaching for returns and taking on more risk to do so, it will likely continue to do well in the short term. Also, at a higher level, I am not sure plowing money into passive strategies will work as well over the next 10 years as it did over the last 10.

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